District setting up new hotline

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 28, 2013 10:12 am
A new tool for stopping bullying will be in place at La Grande High School when classes begin in late August.

A bullying hotline is being set up to be in operation at LHS when the school year starts. Students and parents will be able to call the hotline at any time to anonymously report concerns they have about students being intimidated or harassed. Callers will also be encouraged to report concerns about students they fear may be contemplating suicide.

“This will be a good thing for our kids. It will help with communication issues,” said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze. “It is a great opportunity to open up communication with kids who might not otherwise report bullying.”

Glaze said the hotline is needed because students are sometimes reluctant to report bullying because of pressure from their classmates not to. 

The bullying hotline will be a dedicated line set up through SchoolReach, a company that provides schools with electronic notification systems. All calls will be routed through the company, guaranteeing the anonymity of everyone phoning, said LHS Principal Andrea Waldrop. 

Callers will leave voice messages. Immediately after a message is left, Waldrop and LHS Assistant Principal Scott Carpenter will be notified electronically that a new message was received.

Waldrop and Carpenter will then listen to the message and determine if they need to respond immediately or if they should wait until the next day to begin an investigation. 

Waldrop believes the tip line could save administrative staff time because students calling may provide more information about a problem than they would if talking to school staff members directly. 

Bullying hotlines have been successful in other school districts, Waldrop said. The principal said she recently talked to an administrator from North Marion High School in the Willamette Valley about a similar bullying hotline at his school. 

The North Marion official said the hotline assisted not only with bullying but also helped his high school address other issues including thefts.

Waldrop said LHS students will be free to call the hotline not only about bullying and students they are concerned about but also “anything they believe an adult should know about.”

Still, the ultimate purpose of the hotline is to get more students to step forward to prevent bullying.

“We hope that bystanders (at bullying incidents) will do more reporting,” Waldrop said. 

Bullying has been an issue the school district has been focusing on with increasing intensity since last winter when an LHS student, who friends and family said was being bullied, took his own life.

The student suicide, Glaze said, is one reason LHS is putting in a bullying hotline.

“That stimulated the discussion (about installing a hotline),” the superintendent said. 

The superintendent said that if the bullying hotline is successful at LHS one will later be installed at La Grande Middle School.

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